Headhunters MC meth mastermind loses appeal to reduce his sentence

Head Hunters MC

It was considered the largest methamphetamine manufacturing and distribution network ever prosecuted in New Zealand and Brownie Joseph Harding was its head.

He was called the ”methamphetamine manufacturing mastermind” and went to jail for 28 years and six months for his part in the scheme.

A patched member of the Headhunters motorcycle club his arrest was part of Operation Easter, run by the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ), which focussed on a group of patched Headhunters Motorcycle Club members in Whangarei in 2014.

Harding sat at the “apex of the group”, Justice Simon Moore said in his sentencing notes in 2017.

He was sentenced under the law at the time. But in 2019 the Court of Appeal issued a new guideline judgment for sentencing in relation to methamphetamine which changed how sentencing was to be approached.

Harding appealed earlier this year. His lawyer, Dr Thomas Harre, said given the increasing number of large importations of methamphetamine now, the sentence for Harding could not be maintained.

Brownie Joseph Harding

Harre accepted that Mr Harding had played a leading role in the manufacture of 6.5 kilograms of methamphetamine. But he submitted that that did not put him in the same position as a person with a leading role in relation to the importation of tens or hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine.

The Court said Harding’s role was not limited to overall direction of the group. He was personally involved in all aspects of the work of manufacturing and distributing the methamphetamine. That included sourcing the precursor substances to be used in the manufacturing.

“Mr Harding was not an addict. He never used methamphetamine. He was motivated by profit. He told the pre-sentence report writer he would do it all again,” the judgment read.

Harding’s leading role in the operation meant that his sentence must be at the upper end, the court said.

“We do not consider that the culpability of Mr Harding’s offending is diminished in any way by the fact that in recent years very large quantities of methamphetamine have been imported into New Zealand. It remains the case that this was a major manufacturing operation and is within the most serious cases of its type. Mr Harding sat at its apex and was involved in every facet of its activities.”

His sentence was not considered inconsistent with current sentencing practices and the court dismissed his appeal.

He also has to serve a 10-year minimum non-parole period.

The Appeal Court did consider there were two issues that may be future questions for it to consider, where a sentence of such a length was tantamount to a life sentence on a Māori man in his 40s and whether a long finite sentence met the goals of the Sentencing Act.

However, it said neither argument was raised by Harding.

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Source: Stuff